We’ve been delivering without sustainable funds – GBC boss pens emotional letter to concerned citizen

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The Director-General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), Professor Amin Alhassan, has commended a concerned citizen for raising issues with some operations of the state Broadcaster.

In the letter addressed to the Director General titled: ‘A letter to Prof. Amin Alhassan, DG, GBC’, the writer raised concerns with GBC’s set designs, lighting and the general quality of production of the state media.

Responding to the letter, Prof. Alhassan said the writer has demonstrated interest in the operations of GBC and commended him.

“I am very impressed by the concern that you have shown in the national broadcaster. It takes one who is interested in making a change to actually take steps to ensure that change is realized. So I am pleased that you did not keep your observations to yourself, but have taken time to actually write a letter to me via social media. Thank you for being a citizen and not a spectator” the Director-General stated.

Prof. Alhassan agreed that the complains and suggestions were laudable, but added that the transformation of GBC would be possible if not for the overwhelming financial burden it faces.

The DG noted that GBC is not only about GTV.

He said the operations of GBC include managing seven television channels – GTV, GBC NEWS, OBONU TV, GTV SPORTS+, GTV LIFE, THE GHANA LEARNING TV and 16 regional and community FM Radio stations as well as transmitter sites which ensure that all the signals are received in the various towns. This puts a huge financial burden on the Corporation.

He added that each day, the Corporation broadcast in 23 Ghanaian Languages across these stations.

He said with all these challenges, GBC has not relented in its efforts as a Public Service Broadcaster and has delivered on its mandate for the past 85 years of its existence.

He pointed out that the impact of GBC’s mandate which includes telecasting state programmes with no charges and not involving commercialisation cannot be ignored.

He said these activities do not bring in the needed capital.

He emphasised that GBC cannot compare itself to other stations which are focused on commercialising programmes to generate income.

The Director-General noted that Public Service Broadcasting is expensive and without a sustainable funding scheme, there will be challenges.

He said international brands like the BBC and DW television network which are public service broadcast networks have succeeded in making progress due to funding generated from the collection of TV Licence. However, the same cannot be said of Ghana.

“In Ghana, when the topic of TV Licence fees became an issue, what we heard were chants of “Yen tua” Professor Amin stated.

He said GBC was established to undertake both public and commercial Broadcasting in order to inform, educate and entertain.

The law mandates GBC, to offer equal airtime to political parties in every election year without defining how GBC will finance such a task.

He said while private radio and television stations sell airtime to political parties to make money, GBC honours its constitutional obligation of free airtime to political parties.

On the payment of TV Licence fee, the DG said, “The same law asked Ghanaians to pay TV licence fee but honouring that obligation to GBC as a civic contract has been another story. “

Prof Amin noted that the situation is not gloomy as an independent media research last year (2019), found GTV and GTV Sports+ to command 50% of the audience share in the country.

He urged the writer not to give up but continue to help GBC to move in the right direction.

He, however, challenged the writer and all concerned citizens to be the change they want to see by paying the TV Licence fee.

He said GBC will continue to do its part, strive for excellence and improve upon its programmes regardless of the challenges.

Below is the full reaction of the Director-General of GBC, Prof Amin Alhassan

Dear Concerned Citizen,

Re: A letter to Professor Amin Alhassan, DG, GBC

I am very impressed by the concern that you have shown in the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, your national broadcaster. It takes one who is interested in making a change to actually take steps to ensure that change is realized. So I am pleased that you did not keep your observations to yourself, but have taken time off to actually write a letter to me via social media. Thank you for being a citizen and not a spectator, thank you for demanding that the right things be done.

You are indeed right when you note that our programmes would be exciting and appealing if our set designs, carpets, tables and overall visuals could be improved. I and indeed every worker in GBC think so too. If it were financially possible, we would have changed the settings and the carpets and brought in beautiful curtains and changed everything you see. Unfortunately, GBC is not only the GTV you see, it is also GBC News, Obonu TV, GTV Sports+, GTV Life and Ghana Learning TV. It also includes all the 16 regional and community FM radio stations as well as all the transmitter sites that we manage, to ensure that television and radio signals are received in every city, town or village in Ghana. Every single day, GBC broadcasts in 23 Ghanaian languages across these stations.

This herculean task of ensuring that all GBC channels and sites have the needed logistics to work with and run whether they are situated in a commercially viable town or not, means that we fairly distribute our revenue among all these stations in order for them to run. As a Public Service Broadcaster, we are mandated to carry out national assignments, which are normally for free and this puts a lot of financial stress on the Corporation sometimes impeding our desires to change the various sets of programmes. We are mandated to ensure diversity of content, inclusiveness and access to all Ghanaians. That is why we broadcast in 23 languages, of which only two bring in revenue while the rest actually are a drain on our IGF.

The television stations you mentioned like Citi TV, Joy News etc are private and are not mandated by law to set up and maintain Regional and Community radio and television stations as well as transmitter stations scattered across the length and breadth of this country most of which are at places that do not yield advertising revenue. If the private stations were compelled to do this level of public service broadcasting they would not be standing. The international brands like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Deutsche Welle (DW) television networks are public service broadcast networks that are funded through TV Licence fees to enable them function effectively and have the financial wherewithal to buy the beautiful sets you see. In Ghana, when the topic of TV Licence fees became an issue, what we heard were chants of “Yen tua”. I hope you have paid yours? This will enable us provide the quality you want to see.

GBC was established to undertake both public and commercial broadcasting in order to inform, educate and entertain. The law has imposed on it the additional obligation to offer equal airtime to political parties during an election year without defining how it will finance such an onerous task. So while private radio and television stations sell airtime to political parties to make money, GBC honours its constitutional obligation of free airtime for political parties. The same law asked Ghanaians to pay TV licence, but honoring that obligation to GBC as a civic contract has been another story. We have been delivering on our mandate without a sustainable funding scheme for public service broadcasting in Ghana. For almost 85 years GBC has been doing its part for the good of society and not for the convenience of the market, and is still standing. GBC should not be compared to other media organizations who are in the business for the convenience of the advertising market

Public Service Broadcasting is expensive and without a sustainable funding scheme there will be challenges as you have observed.

The situation is not all gloomy. Last year, an independent media research company found that GTV and GTV Sports+ were found to command about 50 percent of the audience share in the country when it comes to sports. So it means that aside presidential addresses and national assignments, a large majority of people watch other programmes on our television stations like GTV Sports+, breakfast show, and news.

My dear citizen, do not give up. Continue to point us to the right direction. While you are at it, pay your TV Licence fee and be the change that you want to see. We at GBC will continually strive for excellence and improve upon our programmes regardless of the challenges we face. We would also share our successes and be the change that you would want to see.

May God bless our homeland Ghana.

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